Simon Whitlock reflects on his rebirth ahead of the Grand Slam showdown with Michael van Gerwen | Darts news



Simon Whitlock is making an offer to advance to the Grand Slam semi-finals of Darts for the first time in his career.

Simon Whitlock is making an offer to advance to the Grand Slam semi-finals of Darts for the first time in his career.

Michael van Gerwen appears to be a man on a mission to the Grand Slam of Darts, having given up just six legs to reach the quarter-finals, yet the prospect of facing world number 1 is not scary for Simon Whitlock.

‘The Wizard’ represented the Dutchman at this year’s World Matchplay and World Grand Prix, and he is confident he will conjure more magic to complete a stunning hat-trick of major wins against the three-time world champion.

Prior to his complete 11-4 win over Van Gerwen at Matchplay, the lovable Aussie had lost his last 15 fights to MVG, a record that dates back to October 2016.

So what’s the secret of his recent success against the best player in the world?

“I think it’s just faith and trust,” Whitlock told al Darts Show Podcast.

“I’ve been training well, I’ve played a lot of darts online this year, so my game is in a really good stage. I’m really happy with my set-up, my darts, which is all about confidence.

“I beat Michael [van Gerwen] the last two times on TV in the majors, so I definitely have the game. He’s just performing on the day. If I feel good and everything works, then I can beat anyone.

Whitlock’s Matchplay success against “Mighty Mike” spawned many titles, although his Grand Prix triumph was arguably more impressive.

“I’m not done playing. I’m even more excited than ever – I still play roughly three, four times a week.”

Whitlock on his passion for sports …

The Aussie was in inspired form, becoming the first player outside of Van Gerwen and Phil Taylor to register an average of tons more in the double start event, on a best of five set format.

The two-time world finalist will embark on his fourth Grand Slam quarter-final on Sunday night, but he has never made it past the last eight in 10 appearances.

His three previous quarter-final defeats have come against the trio of Phil Taylor, Scott Waites and Gerwyn Price, who went on to win the title.

Whitlock hopes history won’t repeat itself, but he’s enjoying his latest dusting with the 31-year-old – confessing that he prefers the cut and thrust of knockout darts, as opposed to the unpredictable round-robin format.

“I don’t really like the format. I don’t like the Italian group stuff – it doesn’t work for me,” admitted the former European champion.

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“Sometimes it’s not in your hands, but if you can get past it, then that’s good, because you get to the longest game, the knockout, and I like that part.”

However, the elongated format presents difficulties. Matches at best of 31 stages are normally a test of resilience, but this task is compounded by the current intensive player programs.

Despite taking first place in Group B with maximum points, the former World Cup finalist was strenuous in his 10-6 win over Adam Hunt on Friday, averaging 87 in a scrappy relationship.

Since the Darts World Cup kicked off in Salzburg on November 6, Whitlock has only had three days without playing competitive darts, and he admits it’s gradually taking its toll.

“This is tough. Coming back from Austria we only slept an hour and then I had to qualify that day too, which was really hard, but I’m really happy with that because I qualified and I’m in the last eight,” he added .

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Simon Whitlock beat Adam Hunt 10-6 to reach the last eight at the Grand Slam.

Simon Whitlock beat Adam Hunt 10-6 to reach the last eight at the Grand Slam.

“I’ve struggled the last two games, but I think it’s just because I’ve played too much. I just need a good rest. My body is aging.

“I’m probably the oldest player still in the tournament. It’s hard work. I hope to go out shooting and I’ll feel really good.”

It is a testament to Whitlock’s insatiable passion for the sport that is thriving under such difficult circumstances.

Australia’s most successful import is the oldest statesman in the top 20 in the world, but it’s showing that age is just a number with a turbulent resurgence in recent months.

The 51-year-old has reached three quarter-finals in this period, a record matched only by Matchplay world champion Dimitri Van den Bergh and Van Gerwen himself.

Quarter-finals on Sunday – Afternoon session

Michael Smith versus Jose De Sousa
Damon Heta vs James Wade

Quarter-finals on Sunday – Evening session

Dimitri Van den Bergh against Nathan Aspinall
Michael van Gerwen versus Simon Whitlock

However, he is not the only Australian to make waves. His World Cup mate Damon Heta made it to the quarterfinals on his Grand Slam debut, with two Australians starring in the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since October 2017.

The pair thrived in tandem at the World Cup before succumbing to future Wales champions, and Whitlock praised his compatriot, who faces James Wade for a place in Monday’s semi-finals.

“That’s great. I hardly knew Damon [Heta] before he came here, but as far as I’m concerned we have to become good friends.

“He’s a fantastic player. It’s just nice to have another Australian here who is doing well.”

However, Whitlock’s focus is firmly on his fortunes. He’s bidding to just lift his second major PDC title, and given his consistency over the past decade, he might be forgiven for feeling his exploits deserved a greater reward.

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Whitlock beat Van Gerwen 3-0 in the quarter-finals of the World Grand Prix, in the last competitive match

Whitlock beat Van Gerwen 3-0 in the quarter-finals of the World Grand Prix, in the last competitive match

‘The Wizard’ has reached more major finals since claiming its televised PDC title in 2013, succumbing to James Wade and Daryl Gurney in the European Championship and World Grand Prix finals respectively.

This may have deflated many professionals entering the twilight of their careers, but it has simply strengthened the desire for Whitlock, who insists he has some unfinished business as he sets out to end the season in style.

“I want to win them all. I want to do well in all of them. The rankings are important and winning money is also important.

“I think it is [passion] only inside you. I haven’t finished playing. I’m even more passionate than ever – I still play roughly three, four times a week.

“You are never finished, I think – not unless you are a world champion, then you can think that you have reached the pinnacle of the game and now I can rest a little.”

Don’t miss a dart from the Grand Slam of Darts onwards Sky Sports as the action continues on Sunday with all four quarter-finals, join us from 1pm to 7pm Sky Sports Arena and follow us @SkySportsDarts for updates and clips during the tournament.

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